Hundreds of thousands spent on Charleston Co. superintendent search, contracts

Published: Nov. 13, 2023 at 6:00 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 13, 2023 at 6:39 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District, the state’s second-largest district, has been without a consistent leader for nearly two years and has shelled out hundreds of thousands for contracts and searches.

The turmoil ripple effect started back in 2021 when Dr. Gerrita Postlewait resigned as superintendent of Charleston County schools on Dec. 29 at a special called meeting. She remained on the district’s payroll through June of 2022 as a consultant and continued receiving benefits including $242,000 from her yearly salary.

Don Kennedy took over as interim superintendent following the resignation. His salary came in at more than $246,000.

The district selected BWP & Associates, the company that would conduct the search for the district’s new superintendent, in March. They have since been paid nearly $52,000, according to the district’s transparency reports.

After two finalists dropped out, the remaining finalist, Dr. Eric Gallien was offered the job as the highest-paid superintendent in district history at an annual base of $275,000, plus benefits.

“With all of the things said and done, just his part of it was well over half a million dollars and that doesn’t include all of the airfare and accommodations,” Joy Brown, a district parent, says. “They had to pay for interviewing superintendents all the community meetings and things like that.”

Gallien was set to serve until at least June 2025. But three months into his contract, the Charleston County School District Board placed him on paid administrative leave after Gallien was accused of creating a hostile work environment. An investigation cleared him, but he resigned immediately after.

As part of the settlement agreement, Gallien will be paid more than $355,000 in salary, non-wages, reimbursed attorney fees and unreimbursed expenses. In return, Gallien agreed to drop the lawsuit he filed against the district in early October.

The costs will be paid by taxpayer dollars.

“It feels like this board in particular has seemed to want to be very fiscally conservative but we see this extreme waste of tax dollars and resources that should be going back into our schools,” Brown says.

Brown has two children in the Charleston County School District and says in all of these meetings and the decisions being made, she feels the board’s focus is not on the students.

“It’s very upsetting because we saw some progress for our students just overall in general with reading,” Brown says. “I know my kids - their scores have gone up in ELA and on their testing. But, I fear that with all this constant upheaval, we’re going to see regression because there’s no balance in the whole district in the system. So it makes me scared for what’s going to happen for our students.”

As for what Brown would like to see moving forward, she suggests a break because the current acting superintendent, Anita Huggins, has been in the district for a long time.

“I think that she needs to pick her team and kind of right the ship,” Brown says. “I think they should allow that to happen because honestly I fear for another waste of money and then what do we do if we get leadership in who doesn’t know our district? We can’t afford to have this many years of instability in leadership. So I ask that they wait and hold off and then when they do when it is time to go slowly with it and really get community input.”

Charleston County School Board Chair Pamela McKinney did not respond to a request for a sit-down interview about parents’ concerns and the spending approved by the board.